Goodreads: By day, Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator in the Detroit Fire Department. At night—accompanied by her elemental familiar, a salamander named Sparky, and an eccentric group of ghost hunters—Anya pursues malicious spirits. The rarest form of psychic medium, a “Lantern,” Anya doesn’t allow spirits to communicate through her with the physical world like most mediums, she devours restless harmful souls and incinerates them. She’d like to get closer to Brian, a ghost-hunting techno-wiz, but a lifetime of those she loves getting hurt makes her hold back. Her two roles mesh when, on the trail of a serial firebug, she discovers an arsonist is attempting to use the fires to rouse Sirrush, a supremely powerful elemental, from the salt mine beneath the city of Detroit. Anya must capture the arsonist before Devil’s Night, when the spell will be complete and Sirrush will rise to raze the city.
And here's what I thought: I could definitely hang out with Anna Kalinczyk. She's a down to earth person, who just happens to be a Lantern, a rare kind of psychic medium. But she's completely cool --- she's not unearthly beautiful, impossibly smart, and just too amazing to be real; she's a real person who just happens to be a Lantern. I really appreciated that Laura Bickle wrote Anna to be this way; she's not too perfect, and that's what makes her a great character. Bickle also created a really interesting story here, where there is a real-life setting, completely with some real-life situations, mixed in with the magical. There's just enough of both elements to make the story gritty and intriguing, and somehow, pretty believable.
And did I mention that this book has a little humor, and a little romance mixed in? Anya's salamander, Sparky, is a great character all by himself and is creatively written to be a foil to Anya's character. There are some deep emotions explored in this book, and Sparky sometimes acts as a bit of a counterpoint, or a grounding element. To me, without him, the story wouldn't be as good. Anya definitely struggles with being a Lantern, and feeling completely alone at times, just because of her abilities. Lucky for her, she's got some good friends to help her out.
The romance element could have been completely left out and the story would still have been good. For any of you younger readers -- heads up -- there's a brief (and only sketchily described) bit of sex towards the end of the book. The romance didn't detract from what was going on in the story, and I can see where it lent a certain edge to Anya's personal struggles. That said, though, if this book had been an urban fantasy romance (with the romance being a definite stronger flavor in this mix), I wouldn't have gotten through it. I was really more interested in Anya's own story, and the mystery and danger building throughout the book.
All in all, a good read. Whipped right through this book, and will be reaching for the next one, Sparks, just so I can see what happens next.
* and extra bonus points to the author for including a very nicely written librarian in this story, who does a great job helping Anya. :) Well-written, non-stereotypical librarian characters always get extra gold starts in my book!!!
And where did this book come from? Library, of course! :)